The Presidential Daily Brief


  1. Obama Weighs In on the Shutdown’s Impact

    President Obama had strong words for his Republican foes in a speech delivered hours after signing the congressional budget agreement. Countering GOP criticism of his role in the shutdown, the President offered some unsolicited advice: “You don’t like a president? Go out and win an election.” And if the polls are right, the GOP will have a tough time doing that anytime soon. But as OZY’s Eugene S. Robinson argues, the party of “small government” may still be able to hang a “mission accomplished” banner over the whole imbroglio because ultimately the shutdown showed voters the opposite of Obama’s crafted message: that starving the beast for 17 days did not stop the planet from spinning.

    Sources: Guardian, NYT, Politico

  2. Pentagon Legal Eagle to Be Named Next Homeland Security Chief

    Today President Obama is expected to tap Jeh (pronounced “Jay”) C. Johnson to helm the Department of Homeland Security. Many observers had expected Obama to name N.Y. top cop Ray Kelly to the position, but Johnson, a longtime Obama ally, appears to have flown in under the radar. The nomination of the former Defense Department general counsel is likely to be well received by both parties. Johnson, whose first name is taken from the Liberian chief his grandfather met during a League of Nations trip in 1930, oversaw the expansion of the U.S. drone program and co-authored a report that found the “don’t-ask-don’t-tell” policy would not hamper military effectiveness.

    Sources: NYT, Daily Beast, The Atlantic

  3. Index Reveals Shocking Prevalence of Global Slavery

    Almost 30 million people around the world live as slaves. That’s the troubling statistic released by the 2013 Global Slavery Index, which found almost 14 million enslaved people in India and nearly three million in China. The western African state of Mauritania has the highest proportion of enslaved people in the world, with almost 4 percent of its population living in forced servitude. Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are among those urging world leaders to heed the index as a call to action.

    Source: BBC

  4. Mexican Lawmakers Pass New Junk Food Tax to Combat Obesity

    The dubious crown of fattest nation in the world has passed from America to its slightly pudgier neighbor to the South, Mexico, and the Latin nation isn’t taking the ranking sitting down. In a nation where 70 percent of adults and a third of children are now overweight or obese, lawmakers on Thursday passed a 5 percent tax on packaged food that contains 275 calories or more per 100 grams. The measure, which enjoys widespread political support, aims to help the country — notorious for its taste for fried foods, sodas, and sweets — tighten the collective belt amid soaring healthcare costs tied to diabetes and heart disease. But as OZY explains today, obesity trends among other animal species suggest that addressing the issue will require much more than just limiting junk food consumption.

    Sources: WSJ (sub), Latin Times

  5. Scientists Question Everything, Including the Scientific Method Itself

    According to former Fed Chair Alan Greenspan, one of the major lingering effects of the recent shutdown is that investors and economists will be “flying blind” until next week without the guidance of government reports like the Labor Department’s September employment figures. They’re not the only ones not seeing clearly, according to The Economist, which reports that widespread troubles with replicating findings are calling into question the reliability of much scientific research.  An NIH official in the U.S. estimates that at least three-quarters of all published biomedical findings would be difficult to replicate. One piece of research that is being acted on this week: the WHO is declaring air pollution a carcinogen after one study attributed 223,000 deaths from lung cancer per year to it.

    Sources: NPR, The Economist, Reuters


  1. Could the Republican Party Split in Two?

    As Republicans lick their wounds after a bruising defeat in the debt drama, new questions have arisen within the Beltway about the party’s future. Will irreconcilable differences drive a tea party spin off? From Glenn Beck’s calls to “defund the GOP” to the leaders of FreedomWorks hinting at a coming “divorce,” the impulse to split seems to be gaining momentum. Some moderate Republicans seem more than happy to show the far right the door: the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is planning to take on tea party candidates in primary races in three states. But an independent tea party would likely face a tough electoral climb, with recent polls confirming the movement’s tanking popularity.

    Sources: Washington Post, The Atlantic, WSJ (sub)

  2. New Trading Exchange Offers Buying and Selling of ’Shares’ in Pro Athletes

    It’s no longer the realm of fantasy. Fantex Holdings, a new start-up backed by investors from Silicon Valley, Wall Street and the sports world, will create opportunities for fans and investors to actually buy shares in an athlete’s future monetary performance. Their first athletic offering will be star NFL running back Arian Foster, who will receive a $10 million up-front payment from investors in return for 20 percent of his future earnings from football and endorsements. The up-front payment places much of the risk of career-ending injury on investors, and places a new onus on athletes to better manage their finances. But for football fans-turned-investors, the new market lends an entirely new wrinkle (and financial incentive) to playing fantasy ball.

    Sources: NYT, ESPN

  3. Biomusic Opens Paths for Patients in Comas

    One of the greatest challenges for the caregivers and loved ones of coma patients is relating to a person who is unable to acknowledge anyone’s presence. But bioengineer and passionate musician Stefanie Blain-Moraes has found a way to help bridge the impasse: by translating the changes in patients’ autonomic nervous systems — which control automatic bodily functions like internal organs and heart rates — into music. The program assigns shifts in such automatic functions to different musical elements. Because such shifts occur alongside changes in a person’s emotional state, the resulting music effectively translates patients’ emotional responses into something that others can hear, opening up new ways of relating to those whose personalities are most difficult to access.

    Source: Nautilus


  4. Movie ”12 Years a Slave” Opens to Rave Reviews

    Set for limited release today, the movie tells the story of a black musician born free in the north who is deceived, drugged, sold south into slavery, and subjected to the utmost brutalities of a brutal system. This visually stunning and moving work from British director Steve McQueen, adapted from the autobiography of Solomon Northrup, has earned early acclaim and already been tabbed “easily the greatest feature film ever made about American slavery.”  McQueen’s uncompromising vision is likely not only to garner awards but also, as Alana Rush reports on OZY, “piss off people in America” as well.

    Source: New Yorker

  5. Woeful Houston QB’s Replacement Potentially Even Worse

    And now let us celebrate transcendent badness. In four straight games, Houston Texans quarterback Matt Schaub threw passes resulting in touchdowns — for the other team. Last week he went down with an injury to the perverse cheers of a hometown crowd before his replacement threw yet another interception that was returned for a touchdown. Now word comes that Schaub is out this week, and Houston will turn to the back-up’s back-up, Case Keenum, a former Houston University star who has never been on the active roster for an NFL game, let alone started one. A lot could go wrong this Sunday for the Texans, but maybe nothing could go worse.  

    Source: ESPN